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US based ‘charity organisations linked to Pakistan had started collecting funds in the name of helping India during the Covid crisis, according to a report.

After collecting millions of dollars, few of them came together and sent peanuts in the name of help. All of them claimed the credits so that their donors would think that money was well spent, according to the report by DisinfoLab.

“The money collected could go from terror finance to Pakistan army to Islamists to Hamas – apart from the pocket money to the charities,” DisinfoLab said in its disclosure.

This is what is being called the ‘CovidAidScam2021’. While on one hand, there were several stories of individuals and group heroics, there were far bigger vultures who were smelling blood and taking advantage of a colossal humanitarian crisis, the report said.

They went on to steal money in the name of ‘Help India Breathe’, duping hundreds of thousands of well-meaning people who wished to help the needy in India, the document said.

Thousands of people who donated funds to some of these organisations would be shocked to learn that not only their contributions did not reach their destination, but they are also likely to be used for far worse activities – ranging from fomenting protests and social disturbances to sponsoring outright terror attacks, it added.

Several fund-raisers were set up on April 27 and 28 in the US by Islamist organisations being run from Pakistan, it said.

One of the organizations, which was very aggressive in fund collections, was IMANA, which was running an aid campaign on Instagram, and one of the fastest to receive funds.

The fund collection was so good that IMANA was also frequently revising its target amount, once the previous one was met. But it was one of the least transparent in terms of providing updates.

As per the document, it also turned out that there were not one or two but hundreds of fund collections going on in India to help in Covid times. And there were several platforms being used for these – from social media to dedicated fund-raising platforms.

Among the social media platforms, the least transparent was Instagram, which was also one of the most used platforms. Among the fund-raiser platforms, one with maximum number of fund-raisers and with minimum transparency was Launch Good.

IMANA – Islamic Medical Association of North America — is an Illinois-based medical relief organisation that was formerly established as Islamic Medical Association (IMA) in 1967, and was subsequently renamed to IMANA.

It was formed by some of the core members of an Islamic organization — Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

However, unlike several other organisations, IMANA was rather opaque in its recent charity drive during the Covid crisis, and had provided scanty details about the manner it spent crores of rupees that it collected, the report said.

IMANA’s updates were sketchy while the claims were grand. This seemed rather odd, as most of the charities survive on public relations. And for anyone asking questions, the stock reply was labelling the tag of ‘Islamophobia’. (IMANA officially didn’t, but a doctor, Aaliya Yakub, who is associated with IMANA, did), the document said.

The current chairman of IMANA is Ismail Mehr, who has been the lead of the ‘Help India Breathe’ project. He is a Pakistan-origin doctor and currently resides in the US. He seems to have a bachelor degree in medicine (Anesthesia).

However, there is some confusion about his actual degree. In one of the versions, Ismail Mehr is a 1998 batch medical graduate from the Universidad Iberoamericana in the Dominican Republic. The same information is mentioned in one of the 2013 newsletters of IMANA. But according to the US Physicians’ Directory WebMd.com, Mehr had graduated from Mexico.

IMANA created buzz last month with its fundraiser. It started the #HelpIndiaBreathe campaign on Instagram on April 27, and set an initial target of Rs 1.8 crore. While seeking help in India, it used a map that would please the Indian audience, while their website has a map endorsed by the Pakistan government. If IMANA were to be neutral, it could have at least used the map several international organisations and the UN use.

And as the money poured in from good-hearted people in India and from other parts of the world, IMANA saw an opportunity and kept revising the targets for fund collection (Rs 1.8 crore to Rs 3 crore and then to Rs 5.62 crore). So much so that IMANA managed to raise Rs 8.7 crore against a target of Rs 5.62 crore on Instagram alone, the report said.

–IANS

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